The American School Project
April 2018 Newsletter
Dear friends,
This month, students, faculty, and staff at the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture put in hundreds of hours finalizing the American School exhibition, themed "Do Not Try to Remember," for shipment to Venice. This has been an incredible time of excitement, marked by long hours spent in the Creating_Making Lab fabricating exhibition pieces and in the archives selecting works to display.

Do Not Try to Remember
For the 2018 Venice Biennale, the Gibbs College of Architecture's American School exhibition is organized around the theme "Do Not Try to Remember." This phrase is drawn directly from Bruce Goff's teaching. As we describe in the exhibition catalog:

While OU students developed a keen awareness of global architectural history under Goff's leadership, when they arrived in the design studio, they were instructed: "Do not try to remember." Do not begin with classical column capitals and proportional systems or modernist pilotis and grids. Do not begin by imitating the designs of your instructor. Do not arrive at the beginning with the end already in mind. Instead, begin fresh. Begin with the natural context: the slope of the land, the quality of the light, and the local materials. Be earnest when responding to the program. Sincerely listen to the needs and desires of the client. Most importantly, begin by trusting your own creative instincts. ...  The results of this pedagogical experiment  --------   the fantastic environments imagined on paper and through built works --------  are characterized by complex geometries, attention to context, and resourcefulness.

In other words, the American School exhibit in Venice celebrates Goff's and his students' pioneering efforts to re-imagine the possibilities of the built environment, beginning fresh with each new project.

En Route to Venice
Just a few days ago, each piece of the exhibition was carefully packed and shipped. This precious cargo is expected to arrive at Palazzo Bembo early this week. Two of our faculty members, Luca Guido and Michael Hoffner, will arrive in Venice next week to install the exhibition in time for the 2018 Venice Biennale.

This month's American School newsletter features reflections on the exhibition from its curators, Dean Hans E. Butzer and Luca Guido and Michael Hoffner, as well comments from two students involved in its design and fabrication and photos documenting the process. The newsletter also includes details about the Biennale Preview events and highlights an exciting new donation to the American School Archive!

We look forward to providing you with exciting updates from Venice soon! As always, if you are interested in getting involved in the American School Project, please click  here.

Kind regards,
Stephanie Pilat
Director, Division of Architecture
Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture
The University of Oklahoma
Above: Students and faculty work on the American School timeline for the exhibition.
(Photo: Avery Smith)
Dean and Co-curator Hans Butzer Reflects on Exhibit Themes

"The OU Gibbs College of Architecture's 2018 Venice Biennale Exhibit serves as an announcement to the world that the great history of our planning, design and construction programs has helped shaped those of others across our nation. Bruce Goff and Herb Greene helped inspire teachers and students across the country to embrace the client and communities as essential design partners, shape the burgeoning contemporary design-build movement, and imbue an ethic of health, sustainability and resilience in each and every planned, designed, and built work of place-making. It reminds us of our foundation and history, and serves as our challenge to greatness for our students and teachers, and to the communities we serve." 

- Hans E. Butzer, Dean, Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture
Above: The exhibition under construction in the college's Creating_Making Lab.  (Photo: Hoffner)
Co-Curator Hoffner Shares Exhibition Fabrication and Packing Processes

" Fabricating the installation for Venice was an intensive two weeks of work at the Creating_Making Lab (C_ML). It began where the work in the classroom seminar left off. Now working with fabricators, the digital model had to be translated into a physical mock-up to prove the details --------  the components had to find the best balance of efficient crate packing; economical shipping; fitting through the gallery door in Venice; quality of initial fabrication; and ease of reassembly on-site. Several versions of fabrication and assembly were tested, and the one with the best advantages was selected. 'Shop tickets' were then drawn so the individual parts could be cut and fabricated into shippable components. The best tool and method was chosen for each situation --------  both digital and analog fabrication methods were used. Walls were built at C_ML to replicate conditions of the gallery in Venice, and all finished components were test-fitted into place. Meanwhile, a digital model was prepared to plan for packing. On the final day before shipping, student and faculty volunteers showed up to help disassemble the installation; stage the crate contents according to packing plans; photograph contents; and pack the crates. The following afternoon, the shipping company picked up the crates."

- Michael Hoffner, Co-Curator
Above: The mock walls are in place to begin testing the exhibit's undulating details. (Photo: Hoffner)
"A creative, rigorous and unique process of design that allows the mind to think in a different and intellectual way. The class provides an opportunity to be surrounded by numerous creative individuals that further develop the experience."

Cody Poage, architecture junior, shares his experience in the American School exhibition class.
A bove : A preview of the exhibition's signature wall being tested in the Creating_Making Lab.
(Photo: Hoffner)
"The American School exhibit in Venice represents a great opportunity to spread Bruce Goff's significance and the history of our College. Goff pointed out a new path in organic architecture shaping an architectural pedagogy based on creativity. It was a unique experience in the framework of architectural education in the US during the last century. The Venice exhibit is an important opportunity to present to an international audience the little-known history about a truly American way to intend architecture."

Luca Guido, co-curator, comments on the historical significance of the American School exhibition.
Above: Crated and ready for Venice!
(Photo: Hoffner)
"It has been exciting to get an in-depth look into the rich history of the College and the influence of the American School. The variety of talented work by the students of Goff and others shows just how influential and important the American School pedagogy was."

Daniel Kleypas, master of architecture student, discusses his experience of the American School exhibition class.
That's a Wrap!
Above: Grad students Farzan Mahmoudzadeh and Behrooz Deghan Parchini pack up pieces of the exhibition for shipment.  (Video: Hoffner)

Join us in Venice!

ECC Biennale Preview Party
May 24, 2018 & May 25, 2018

The European Cultural Centre (ECC) is hosting a special preview of its "Time Space Existence" collection of Architecture Biennale exhibitions at Palazzo Bembo in Venice, Italy, on May 24 and May 25, from 6:00pm to 10:00pm. Join us during this exclusive event to tour the American School exhibition with two of its co-curators, Luca Guido and Michael Hoffner! 

Exhibition Tour with Dean Hans Butzer
June 1, 2018

Gibbs College of Architecture Dean Hans Butzer, co-curator of the American School exhibition in Venice, will host an opening reception and private tour for alumni and special guests on the evening of June 1, 2018.
If you would like to attend either of these historic events in Venice, please contact Angela Person (, by May 15, 2018.

American School Archive Receives Slide Donation

We would like to thank alumnus Ernest Burden for his recent donation of a beautiful set of slides documenting Bruce Goff's collection of Japanese prints and illustrations. In this collection are slides depicting prints by Ogata Korin, Ito Jackichu, and Hokusai, as well as Edmund Dulac and Kay Nielsen. Goff's collection of art was influential not only in his own work, but also for the work of his students at the University of Oklahoma.

If you are considering  making  a donation to the American School Archive at the University of Oklahoma, please contact Erik Baker (
American School Project Supporters
OU Division of Architecture Professional Advisory Board
The American School Project is led by the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma.